Several dishes come to mind when most Americans think of Mexican food: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, what have you. It’s fairly simple, delicious food that many, including myself, have grown to love, and when I left the Midwest for Mexico City last weekend I was looking forward to trying some authentic Mexican food that wasn’t in a wrapper with a name on it and wasn’t eaten for “fourth meal”.
What I was told on the way south was that Mexico City was the capital of street taco stands. That yes, eating at them was a little risky, but the reward was delicious and cheap. I must have had a dozen street tacos around the Zocalo while I was tooling around the battered city streets, my favorite filling a combination of some sort of steak, grilled peppers and onions, all for a mere 40 cents per taco.
What I was not told is that Mexico City is not the capital of nachos. My only attempt at ordering the delicious snack resulted in a sad pile of corn chips with some sort of Velveeta cheese sloshed over the top. No meat, lettuce or salsa. I saw another couple at the next restaurant looking dejectedly at theirs as well.
As it turns out, nachos are more of a Tex-Mex entity and I imagine as you get closer to the border the nachos become more voluminous (fun story on how the nacho was created on Wikipedia). I had no idea.
So take my advice when you go to Mexico: avoid your common American beliefs on what a taco, nacho or any other Mexican food should be as soon as you touch the ground. The nachos are crummy and the tacos are amazing. Just be careful what stand you go to and pick the popular one that everyone is milling around — that’s probably going to be the cleanest one.